BY SAM WHITE
As discussed here on this magazine a few days ago, the BBC Asian Network went a little off kilter last week. In case you missed it, they sent out a cheerful message in which presenter Shazia Awan, who just arrived from the Middle Ages, vacuously requested listeners to call in with their views on the appropriate punishment for blasphemy. The corporation had to cope with a backlash, and in the end Britain’s glorious state broadcaster apologised. Our selfless moral guides at the Beeb are no doubt now fretting over whether their lack of conviction with regard to persecuting sinners might have serious consequences in the next life.
It’s telling that the BBC could have put out such a question in the first place. How is it that there are staff on their books who wouldn’t have seen a problem with legitimising blasphemy laws? Don’t forget that the question wasn’t should there be punishments, but how should we punish people.
Which is not to say that asking if we should have punishments would be OK either. Such a debate would be deeply regressive and a waste of everyone’s time and money. So it should come as no surprise, if you keep up with the BBC’s state-funded pandering to theocratic, modern leftism, that on the Asian Network’s website they’re still asking precisely that question.
And let’s be clear that when we have to talk about blasphemy, it’s not the Church of England which is driving the illiberal, unpleasant conversation. Of course, it’s all about Islam. The Asian Network’s programme was made with reference to Pakistan, where blasphemy is punishable by death. But the very fact that they framed the issue as they did—not as a critical report, but as a topic that’s up for debate—highlights the creeping imposition, in secular Western democracies, of blasphemy policing by stealth.
Think back to last year when a video became public of Olympic athlete Louis Smith drunkenly pretending to engage in Muslim prayer as a joke. Smith was forced to offer the following apology:
“I am deeply sorry for the recent video you may have seen. I am not defending myself, what I did was wrong. I want to say sorry for the deep offence I have caused and to my family who have also been affected by my thoughtless actions. I recognise the severity of my mistake and hope it can be used as an example of how important it is to respect others at all times. I have learned a valuable life lesson and I wholeheartedly apologise.”
He also grovelled on ITV’s Loose Women, was dragged round some mosques, and still received death threats anyway. The threats weren’t, as far as I know, from the BBC Asian Network, but there might have been some Guardian journalists toying with the idea.
Which brings us to the current incarnation of useful idiots—arrogant, left wing barmcakes who are attempting to normalise brutal religious extremism and who fit right in at, for example, the BBC. These self-righteous cultural relativists are pompously dragging us into an oddly right-on religious dark age. Convinced of their own virtue, they’d blithely dispose of our basic human rights and throw us all under the bus in the name of diversity, inclusion or some other such cynical misnomer.
People like London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who has stated that terror attacks are “part and parcel of living in a big city”, a statement no self-respecting Londoner should put up with.
Or like those who blindly follow dodgy fake feminist Linda Sarsour, a woman who’s hijacked American feminism as a vehicle for her own Sharia-apologetic agenda.
Or supporters of motion M-103 in Canada, which is sold as tackling Islamophobia, but which critics say affords Islam with a uniquely protected status. If the motion passes then fair criticism might be reclassified as hate speech, and free expression will be curtailed.
Such developments are alarming, as is the fact that they’re underscored by fear. There’s the physical fear that opposition might bring violent reprisal from Islamists, but there’s also a tangible social fear, of being slurred, castigated and abused by the left, which currently believes itself to be battling some kind of apocalyptic fascist uprising. They’re caught up in this delusion because they lost a couple of votes, along with their grip on reality. They’ll call you racist, or deplorable, or actually a Nazi, if you step out of line. And much like the Islamists themselves, they won’t tolerate any criticism of Islam.
And so the perverse Left/Islamist coalition supports restrictions on free expression. If in the UK blasphemy is outlawed again, it won’t be done explicitly. Rather than calling it blasphemy, it will be called hate speech. But though ‘crimes’ against (one particular) religion might be rebranded to fit in with the aesthetics of the Millennial activist left, the end result will be the same. Our rights eroded, and a safeguard against religious tyranny removed.
The progressive mob went after Louis Smith, and now they nod along with discussions about punishing those who speak incorrectly. They can do all this without hesitation or reflection, because they’ve categorised Muslims as a class of oppressed people to be protected under the banner of social justice.
Ironically, considering progressives’ self-proclaimed opposition to bigotry, they draw no distinction between moderate Muslims and radical extremists. The nominal liberals are doing the very thing they warn others against—putting all Muslims into one homogeneous block, and as a result tarring the moderates and coddling the extremists.
Blasphemy laws were finally disposed of in the UK in 2008. But now we appear to have the threat of unofficial, de facto blasphemy policing taking their place, bolstered by expanding, repressive hate crime definitions. The BBC is enabling this process, while left-wing activists stifle dissent with unfounded cries of Islamophobia.
The danger contained in illiberal theocratic encroachment isn’t something to be kicked down the line or covered over for fear of causing offence, because the longer it’s avoided, the more difficult it becomes to address. And we can be quite sure of one thing: if we don’t confront it then it will, in the end, confront us.
Sam White is a writer for Country Squire Magazine and has written for The Spectator & Metropolis. Other Sam White articles can be found by using the search box below (just type in Sam White) and also by looking here.